South Carolina Football: The Offseason to-Do List for the Gamecocks
South Carolina had a fantastic 11 win season. Ok. It's over with.
Time to move on.
Every team has a 'to do' list when it comes to the offseason, but some have more on it than others. South Carolina happens to have a short list. However, the list is filled with critical elements. If South Carolina can check off every one of these, there is a good shot that the Gamecocks can win 12 games in 2012.
Here is South Carolina's offseason 'to do' list for 2012.
Establish a Running Back Pecking Order
South Carolina has a wealth of quality running backs. They have an All-American in Marcus Lattimore, but they have to utilize the other four starting caliber guys in order to keep Lattimore healthy.
Kenny Miles decided to return. He was 2009's starting runner and was extremely effective in 2011.
Brandon Wilds proved to be an SEC starter in 2011, starting in Lattimore's place due to a wide range of injuries, including a big one to last year's number two back Shon Carson, who the coaches still think could be the heir apparent to the workhorse running back.
Finally, Mike Davis, the highly sought after freshman runner is now in the fold.
They must decide how to use all of these backs (minus Davis if he red-shirts).
Lattimore still gets the heavy burden with Shon Carson getting used all over the field. Kenny Miles and Brandon Wilds will share backing carries and any short yardage areas that Lattimore may need a breather for.
Continue to Rehab Marcus Lattimore
A great deal of determining the running back pecking order is to ensure that Lattimore is 100% healthy and ready to go. He seems to be ahead of schedule, but the biggest off-season issue should be the health of the star player.
The training staff must be diligent. This could make or break the season.
Tailor the Offense to Connor Shaw's Skills
The offense slowly evolved over the course of 2011 to fit Connor Shaw's unique brand of football. His excellent passing ability and running back like running ability made him a real threat towards the end of the year.
Now, to take the next step, the offense must continue to use his skills in surprising ways. The good news is that the two backup quarterbacks share a similar skill set, so the offense can still be run effectively if he goes down.
Find the Teams Starting Corners
One of the biggest defensive issues for the season will be to identify the two starting corners. Most assume that Vic Hampton will take one of the slots. That's a safe bet. However, who takes the other?
Will it be Akeem Aguste, a player who hasn't played the position in two years?
Will it be one of the freshmen players?
They have to figure it out, and quickly.
Solidify the Special Teams
New coach, new philosophy, and hopefully new successes.
South Carolina has had a below average special teams unit for quite a while now. Joe Robinson is one of the most successful special teams coaches in college football, having spent the last few years with LSU.
South Carolina is going to need to identify a place kicker, a kickoff specialist, and return men. They have many candidates. Could new kicker Nick St. Germain step in and start right away? Does Bruce Ellington return kicks? How about Damiere Byrd? Will Shaq Roland get a shot?
Many questions need answering.
Find a Replacement for Alshon Jeffery
Possibly the biggest off-season question...
Who replaces the irreplacable Alshon Jeffery? South Carolina is absolutely loaded at the wide receiver position, but none quite fit the mold of Alshon. None are as reliable.
Ace Sanders is speedy, but undersized. Same with Damiere Byrd. The bigger receivers such as Lamar Scruggs and DeAngelo Smith don't have the speed or hands of Jeffery.
The three targets to watch?
The other Jeffery (Shamier), Shaq Roland, and K.J. Brent.